I’m sure almost everybody here has heard that Apple unveiled iPhone OS 4 yesterday. If you didn’t I’m surprised being it was “the news.” Anyways I’m here to give my initial and patented cynical overview of it.
All in all Apple claims to have added seven new major features. In reality I only give a shit about two of them. The first finally corrects one of my biggest gripes with the iPhone, lack of multi-tasking. Well it sort of fixes it. iPhone OS 4.0 finally introduced multi-tasking for third party applications. Let me rephrase it introduces a rudimentary form of multi-tasking for certain third party applications. Instead of doing like Palm and Google with their respective operating systems Apple has going the route of ancient Palm OS. Ancient Palm OS allowed some things to run in the background. They called it threading. The main two items that could be run in the background were open network connections and sound. This was accomplished by calling an operating system provided service. And that’s exactly what iPhone OS 4.0 does. It introduces seven services for running background tasks. My problem is the services appear to be very specific instead of generalized.
Like Palm OS of yesteryear the iPhone has a service for sound. It also provides a background service for location (GPS), a mechanism for applications to provide notifications when they’re not running, and a VoIP services (there are a few others but they’re mostly meaningless to me). There is no generic networking background service though. This means Skype can run in the background so you can take calls. But if you write an IRC client it will not be able to run in the background meaning you’ll get disconnected when you change to another applications (unless one of the mentioned services can be shoehorned into a generic networking services). That severely limits the application possibilities again. Apple proves yet again that they can offer a feature available in other operating systems for almost a decade while spinning it as something unique, new, and innovative. I’m not impressed but it’s certainly better than what they’ve had in the past (nothing).
The final note about multi-tasking is if you have an iPhone previous to the 3GS you won’t get it. Sorry Apple has decided previous models of the iPhone don’t have the required hardware even though jailbreakers have been multi-tasking on every iPhone model that has ever existed. It’s nice to know you’re loved right? Nothing makes me happier than companies denying features based entirely on the fact that they want you to buy a new product.
Let’s talk the other feature I took notice of, iAd. Apple has pretty much included adware directly into the OS (much to the bane of many like myself who avoid getting a system infected with adware). This is a feature that can be included in applications and allows easy advertisements. Apple controls the actual adds so the developer simply collects a paycheck from it (they get 60% while Apple keeps 40%). All in all I’m not as hysterical as many are about this feature. Currently many free applications already have advertisements in them so not much is changing. My main issue is since it’s easy to implement advertisements in an application more and more developers will be doing it (I had advertisements in my applications, if you want to make money just sell the damned thing). But my biggest fear is advertisements will start being included in pay applications (to offset the “subsidized price” of $1.99 of course). Not that big of an issue overall as you can just avoid applications with advertising in them.
The real problem with iAd in my opinion is how it makes the product feel cheapened. Let’s face it nobody likes adware getting onto their computer (as evident by applications like Adaware existing who’s sole purpose is to remove adware). So knowing an advertisement service exists inside of the operating system itself just makes the entire system feel chintzy. It’s a psychological thing but alas it’s what it is.
Overall iPhone OS 4.0 is an improvement but not nearly as good of one as I was hoping.